Saturday, April 10, 2010

What a Long Strange Trip It Will Be...

The 2010 political season is heading into high gear with all the momentum and enthusiasm on the side of reaction, wholly unencumbered market capitalism and eternal war. It's not a pretty sight. All the more so because for the past two election cycles, the opposite has been true.

This means that a Democratic majority in congress for two years followed by 15 months with both Democratic president and congressional majority, has certainly failed to do its job. The fact that military-corporate-Republican shills like Palin and Gingrich can call Obama a socialist and "the most radical president" in American history and still retain ANY credibility, much less a mass following, shows how ineffective Democratic control of the national government has been.

Unlike the Tea Partiers, Democrats are demoralized and unenthused. I know I am tired of continually finding that my best efforts gain do not secure economic justice or or end war. It doesn't seem fair that after some modest success, that our gains are so tentative and fragile that they can be swept away by a mass movement based on fear and ignorance lead by a bunch of entertainers like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

But that is the nature of our society and our time so, fair or not, we deal with it. History shows that power concedes nothing without struggle, so we shouldn't be surprised that for every gain in social and economic justice, the monied interests will resist and undermine those gains.

Tired or not, if my values mean anything, then I can't simply quit because powerful interests find more profit in an a society characterized by extreme polarization of wealth, exploiting human beings, consuming our planet and constantly waging war. Nor should I be surprised that our supposed two party system offers no real alternatives. It's all part of the landscape. I can either challenge it or acquiesce. Silence equals consent.

The late Howard Zinn taught me that popular movements can, in fact, overthrow the tyranny of entrenched, vested interests. Zinn also taught me that no victory is permanent. Gains must be defended not only against the profiteers who would reverse them in pursuit of their profits but also against complacency that leaves us thinking that the job is done. The job is never done as long as greed is part of the human psyche.

How to continue the fight is a matter of strategy and tactics. The many progressive organizations that fill my email every day offer plenty of opportunity. I can't join every campaign or actively support every cause but I know that I will always be active in support of peace and justice. So let the Tea Baggers have at it. Their challenge simply means that I must demonstrate why my ideas merit consideration and theirs do not.

But constant agitation and controversy are difficult. Everybody needs a break to rest and recover. That's where Edward Abbey offers a good corollary to Howard Zinn.
Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.

See you on the barricades and on the trail.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Confederate Heritage Fact

Since the governor of Virginia, my long time home state, has declared April to be Confederate Heritage Month for the purpose of reflecting on the Commonwealth's Confederate heritage, I am reflecting that on this day seven score and five years ago, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant.

Good fucking riddance, CSA and your goddamn slave economy.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Border Wars

Frontiers are difficult places. They are the dividing line between Them and Us. Frontiers often test the limits of any authority attempting to control what passes across that line. The US-Mexico border is a frontier where US authority faces its severest tests.

Culturally, the southwest never fully surrendered its Mexican history and heritage which has re-asserted itself in many parts of the US that were carved out of northern Mexico in 1848. Latino demographics indicate that Hispanic culture and ideas will shape the American southwest in decades to come. Nothing the anti-immigrant, US nativists can do will change that. The numbers are there.

A cultural resurgence will be a hollow achievement,though, if the US and Mexico cannot control the violence along their shared border. Weak public institutions and endemic corruption in Mexico combined with a strong US demand for intoxicating drugs and US prohibition of same has spawned waves of violence along the border. Cuidad Jaurez has long been known for its high murder rate; more recently the city has endured a wave of violence associated with the drug trade. El Paso, Texas gets the collateral damage, as do the occasional others.

If he United States is truly concerned about weak, corrupt governments that allow organizations to flourish who are likely to perpetrate violence against American citizens, then a good place to begin would be Mexico rather than Afghanistan and Iraq. Not military occupation, to be sure, but rather working with Mexican government and NGO’s to identify indigenous solutions that strengthen public institutions and provide alternatives to violence.

Of course, the job is not limited to the other side of the border. The US drug war is yet another war that merely exacerbates the problem it is supposed to eliminate. Drug prohibition, like its 1920’s antecedent, simply forces the trade outside of the law, where corruption and violence flourish. Ending drug prohibition would remove one major source of income and power from criminal gangs that know how to seize the advantage in that environment.

Pigs will fly before this nation rethinks the drug war. Depending on how you count, the Drug War is in its 26th or 39th year. The former dates back to Nancy Reagan in 1984, the latter to Richard Nixon in 1971. The Drug War’s history reaches back to the 1930’s. At 26 year, the Drug War is still America's longest, a failure that lumbers on.

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